National Bourbon Heritage Month is a wonderful time of year to discuss the products that I passionately enjoy. I have been yearning to review Buffalo Trace‘s Experimental Collection for many years and I recently received a sample so the timing worked out perfectly for a RSVLTS.com liquor review this week.
The Experimental Collection has been an ongoing subcategory for the Buffalo Trace distillery for 6 years. Out of the countless Kentucky Bourbons available on the market, you may be wondering why I decided to choose this brand.
I am intrigued with, and highly interested in experimental products; products that break out of the ordinary. My joy is in tasting things I haven’t tried before. I’m not knocking any of the traditional products that are made in Kentucky. I think that they are crafted in a bandwidth that is extremely enjoyable. I often feel that my palate deserves to experience something a bit more exotic and interesting flavor-wise. To put it quite bluntly, without beating around the bush, that’s what you receive with the Buffalo Trace experimental collection.
It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sample the unique products coming out of the research and development of an industrial distiller. To date I can’t think of any other distillery that has been so open with the products that they’re testing for the future. After asking my friends at Buffalo Trace nicely to send me a few samples of this year’s experimental collection, they obliged and sent over the entire collection.
Traditionally this is when I would transition into a segment of breaking down each individual sample that was given to me, but like I stated before, I don’t like giving reviews of products the traditional way. So instead what I’ll do is explain which was the most modern and how age is a variable portal area that we need to discuss.
Out of all the samples I had been given the Change and Mash Bill (Oat & Rice) was easily the most experimental products that I was given. To understand the reason why this was the most experimental, we need to look at wood. Wood gives Whiskey 70% of his character, 30% of his character comes from the distillery that is produced at. That 30% is a majority of the stills it’s created in and the grains that go into making it. When a bourbon distillery adds in an experimental grain into the mix after its 51% corn, it introduces a flavor to the product that creates drastic differences from traditional bourbon. I found that both the oat and rice mash bills are very light and delicate whiskeys. This is a list of Randall (@hilljacken) and my descriptor words for (Oats) tobacco leaf, bitter, reminiscent of wheated whiskey (rice) dipping dots, lavender, hibiscus tea, reminiscent of the speyside Scotch.
No one wants to get old
I think the evaluation of age as a ruler for quality in whisky is an unfortunate thing. Most consumers don’t understand that wood is constantly attacking the whiskey inside the barrel and trying to overpower it. Some barrels lose and make great 50 year old scotch and some barrels win, over powering the flavor right around the 20 year mark. What makes this significant is that my palate of young and experimental flavors is well-suited within a bandwidth of about nine years of age in both Bourbons and Scotch. So when a person is buying a 25-year-old whiskey what are they really getting? In some circumstances, this can be the beginning of very heavy wood flavored product that has overpowered the original distillery flavors and quality. In some circumstances the barrel has been light enough, and will not overtake the original juice giving you a chance to have a wonderful product such as Balvenie Port wood 21. This was the extent of the last of the experimental samples that were sent to me. There was nothing inherently wrong with rediscovered barrels or European Oak samples. In my opinion, it just wasn’t as experimental as I would’ve liked to see or taste. Randall and myself both felt that the wood had overtaken many of these experimental wood samples.
I feel this is a very wonderful opportunity for consumers to finally taste and review products that could potentially become the future of the bourbon industry. Many of us have wondered what doing certain things would due to impact a bourbon. Buffalo trace has taken up the call and bottling the results. I commend them for being innovators and consumer conscious advocates.